Principles of Social Justice

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
19 May 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LV25 Philosophy and Politics,
BA LV26 Philosophy and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LV2H Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA LV2M Philosophy and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA LV8M Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA L219 Politics with Human Rights (Including Placement Year),
BA L2M8 Politics with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2M9 Politics with Human Rights,
BA LFM9 Politics with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL23 Sociology and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL24 Sociology and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LL32 Sociology and Politics,
BA P580 Journalism and Politics,
BA P581 Journalism and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA P582 Journalism and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA L400PT Social Change

Module description

This module will introduce you to `principles of social justice`. These principles tell us how a political community should distribute resources and opportunities between individuals and groups.

The module examines competing principles of social justice by examining the work of the most important political philosophers to have defended them and also applies these principles to concrete social and political issues.

Module aims

To introduce you to, and to stimulate your interest in, the study of social justice from the perspective of normative political theory.

To familiarise you with key concepts in normative political theory, such as “equality”, “liberty”, and “desert”, as well as with the debates that use these concepts.

To equip you with an understanding of the relevance of theoretical debates about social justice to public policy controversies that involve social justice.

To encourage you to question your own beliefs about what a socially just political community looks like and to enable you to begin to formulate a vision of such a community for yourself.

Module learning outcomes

Module outcomes

To demonstrate familiarity with and fluency in using key concepts in social justice. You will be able to understand and explain the differences between concepts that are importantly different from each other but often confused in non-academic thinking about social justice.

To understand the nature of normative argumentation and its value to the study of politics. You will be able to formulate arguments about how our political community ought to distribute particular resources and opportunities.

To engage in clear verbal and written normative argumentation. You will acquire a greater confidence and ability to express what you believe is socially just and to express your scepticism about proposals about social justice.

To scrutinise arguments made by politicians and other prominent figures in the media about social justice.


To enhance your ability for logical argumentation and critical thinking. You will learn how to spot mistakes in arguments and how to build strong arguments.

To develop your academic writing skills. You will learn how to write effectively in communicating complex arguments about social justice.

To develop your articulation and deliberation skills. You will learn how to be able to convince others about social justice through good argument, rather than rhetoric.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught over 2 hours per week


  • Peter Singer. (1995) Animal liberation, London: Pimlico.
  • Rawls, John. (1999) A theory of justice, Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Clayton, Matthew; Williams, Andrew. (2004) Social justice, Malden, MA: Blackwell. vol. Blackwell readings in philosophy
  • Mill, John Stuart. (2015) On liberty, utilitarianism, and other essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nozick, Robert. (1974) Anarchy, state, and Utopia, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Mill, John Stuart; Bentham, Jeremy; Austin, John; Warnock, Mary. (c2003) Utilitarianism: and, On liberty : including Mill's Essay on Bentham' and selections from the writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Berlin, Isiah. (2006) 'Two Concepts of Liberty', in The liberty reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Jeffrey H. Reiman. (1985) 'Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 14, pp.115-148
  • Kymlicka, Will. (2001) 'Chapter 3 "Liberal Equality"', in Contemporary political philosophy: an introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cohen, G. A. (c2009) Why not socialism?, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Anderson, Elizabeth. (2006) 'The Epistemology of Democracy', in Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology. vol. 3 (1) , pp.8-22
  • Kymlicka, Will. (1995) 'Freedom and Culture', in Multicultural citizenship: a liberal theory of minority rights, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Online Quiz    60% 
Coursework   Essay 1    40% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James Christensen, email: james.christensen@essex.ac.uk.
Dr James Christensen
Module Supervisor: Dr James Christensen - james.christensen@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Jasini Hobbs - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Katharine Dommett
The University of Sheffield
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 60 hours, 40 (66.7%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
20 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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